At only three years old, the state of the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway is deteriorating fast and Great Slave MLA Katrina Nokleby is calling for repair work on the highway to be accelerated.
Noting that with her background as a geological engineer she was appalled by what she saw when she took a drive up the highway in July with deputy house speaker Lesa Semmler during her Nov. 2 Member’s Statement.
“In some places, the highway sits flush with the surrounding environment, the gravel fill having migrated onto the neighbouring tundra, giving one the impression of a flattened pancake,” she said. “In other places, drainage channels mark erosion in the embankments, particularly concerning in the areas surrounding bridges and culverts. The pullouts are pull-offs, and there appears to be none of the scenic viewpoints I recall there once being a Request For Proposal issued for.
“Most concerning though to someone of my background, geological engineering, are the areas of ponded or standing water on the sides of the highway. Speaking to any northern engineer or geologist and we know that ponded water is the kiss of death for permafrost, a key component for the stability of the ITH.
“Why did we go to all the expense of creating an entire highway constructed of fill in order to protect the permafrost if we were going to skimp on materials and allow its degradation only three years after the project was completed?”
The former Infrastructure Minister directed her questions to current Infrastructure Minister Diane Archie. She asked Archie if repairs needed to the highway could be completed ahead of further consultations on the highway’s rehabilitation.
Archie said she was waiting ensure due process is properly followed but said when that was completed she would push for more funding to get the needed work done.
“There is no mechanism to avoid the need for analysis, the development of a business case, and cost estimates prior to seeking funding,” said Archie. ” We would not be applying due diligence that the residents of the Northwest Territories expect by ignoring the required process to fund a capital project.”
Noting the minister was speaking “her language”, Nokleby agreed it was wise to make a plan before committing funds to a capital project, but then noted much of the problems facing the ITH were already well established and documented and asked if there was still money in the budget to complete some patch work on the highway.
“Road building is rock science, not rocket science,” said Nokleby. “I don’t know how much more analysis we need to know that we should put some more gravel down on the ITH.”
Noting she had limited options on how to divide her ministry’s budget under the GNWT finance administration act, Archie agreed to meet with Nokleby privately to discuss her plans for the ITH in 2021 and compare notes.
During a July tour of the Beaufort Delta, then-infrastructure minister Nokleby agreed to reorganize the budget to find extra funds for much-needed work to be completed on the ITH after driving to Tuktoyaktuk and back.
One month later, Nokleby was stripped of her portfolio and voted out of cabinet by near-unanimous vote, with only herself voting in her defence and Nanakput MLA Jackie Jacobson abstaining. A spokesperson for the Ministry of Transportation told Inuvik Drum the work Nokleby had requested was completed.